Statewide summit on Latino students planned for Oct. 2

BOSTON—To focus attention on the education of Latino students in Massachusetts, a statewide summit will convene Oct. 2 at Worcester State College under the auspices of the Massachusetts Education Initiative for Latino Students.

Gov. Paul Cellucci, who announced the initiative yesterday, called it “a natural outgrowth of education reform.”

The MEILS hopes to put together grassroots organizations of educators, community and religious leaders in each of 17 communities to identify the problems Latino students face in those communities. Among those communities with a Latino school population of more than 10 percent are Worcester, Milford, Leominster and Fitchburg.

Worcester Juvenile Court Justice Luis G. Perez, one of the coordinators of the MEILS effort, said they have been getting “a great reception” from education officials they have talked to in the communities.

“Everyone’s saying the same thing, something has got to be done,” Perez said. “We’re not doing a very good job – the MCAS scores, the dropout rates, the people not continuing their higher education. We want to make sure that everybody’s at the table.”

Perez said, for the Latino community generally, “For the first time in the history of Massachusetts, we’re coming to the table; we want to be part of the solution.”

“If you look at Worcester, it has over a 30 percent Latino population in the public schools, that’s one out of every three children,” he said. “We’re not at the table; we don’t have a school committee person to say, “Look, these are the issues.”

Perez told the Telegram & Gazette that the sensitive issue of bilingual education will be discussed at the October gathering. “Bilingual education is a hot potato,” he said. “There are differences of opinion, not every Latino thinks the same way about bilingual education.”

“We want to take a look to see how has that been done,” he said. “Is it done effectively, or is it an impediment?”

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